Hockey Aided by a display of attacking hockey by Deepak Bejawad, Karnataka emerged triumphant in the Rangaswamy Cup
During a tough phase in the 64th Senior National men’s hockey championship, the Karnataka coach, Ramesh Parameswaran, yelled: “Boys, at least get a penalty corner ” The hosts did manage to win a penalty corner, and its captain, Deepak Bejawad, duly converted. Parameswaran’s plan had worked, though it could have been spotted a mile off.
With nine goals – eight from penalty corners and one from a penalty stroke – Bejawad proved unstoppable during Karnataka’s road to winning the Rangaswamy Cup (for the first time in its history). The 23-year-old finished as the tournament’s second-highest goal-scorer, though this was not his only contribution to the team’s success. During attacking moves, wary defenders would back away from strikers, giving them space to create opportunities. This, no doubt, showed that opponents would rather take their chances in a field-goal situation, rather than concede a penalty corner.
“When I get to the spot, I only focus on the area in which I want to score the goal. I shut out everything else – the goalkeeper, the defenders, the crowd,” says Bejawad. The goalkeeper often looks to distract the drag-flicker with a little shuffling before the attempt. This tactic, however, poses no threat to Bejawad.
“It does not matter if the goalkeeper moves from side-to-side, or even if he guesses correctly and dives in the direction of the ball. If I decide to score in a particular area, say the top-right corner, I will go for it, no matter what. And if he makes the save, it does not worry me. I still remain confident that I’ll score the next time,” he says.
The flick applies the finishing touch to a penalty corner, but the push and the stop play equally important roles. A bumpy push makes it nearly impossible to effect a clean stop; all components must come together like a well-oiled machine. While most teams in this championship faltered with either the push or the stop, Karnataka executed perfectly on nearly all occasions.
Success, of course, only comes with a strict training routine. Bejawad, who spent his younger days in Hubli before moving to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) hostel here, explains: “After routine training with the team, I practice my penalty corners for an hour a day. I also do weight training — about three days a week. After a match, I make time to iron out any flaws in technique or form that the coaches and I may have noticed during the game.”
Bejawad adds that the shoulder generates power on the flick, while a strong wrist action guides the ball in the desired direction. He names V.R. Raghunath – an India international, and a flicker of good repute – as his hero. “And before Raghunath, I idolised Jugraj Singh,” he says.
Bejawad, who is also rock solid in defence, recalls his initiation into the sport. “Hockey is popular in the settlement area in Hubli, where I lived. I played for the Young Star Hockey Club there, and then moved to SAI here in Bangalore. I owe a lot to Ashwath and Prabhakar, my coaches at SAI. I have great regard for my first coach as well, B.S. Venkatesh, of DYSS.”
The youngster is now pursuing a B.A. degree in the Al-Ameen College and hopes to bring more laurels to the State, and perhaps, the country. When asked about the key to his high-conversion rate from the spot, he simply replies: “I just want to score, no matter what. That is all.”